Introduction: These are wise words that will help you get through life today
In my futile life I have seen everything: there is a righteous man who perishes in spite of his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who lives long in spite of his evil. (7:14; HCSB)
Sometimes a righteous person dies prematurely in spite of his righteousness, and sometimes a wicked person lives long in spite of his evil deeds. We just have to deal with this reality. We expect the world to operate on different terms. We think the more the righteous one is, then the longer life one will have. The more wicked one is, the shorter life one has. Then, one of our righteous loved ones die early and we are thrown by this event. Sometimes people become followers of Christ believing that this is going to change their bad luck in life. But we are opening ourselves to disappointment because bad things can still happen to us. There are times when doing bad things brings bad results. The Proverbs teach us this reality. But we must also accept that bad things will happen to us regardless of our righteous decisions. I have seen a number of people give up on God because of this reality. We are not in some sort of contract with God stating that as long as we serve God, God must keep all bad things from happening to us. So do not live your life thinking that excessive righteousness is going to change the nature of life. Bad things happen to good people. This is simply the way the world operates and is not a judgment that there is no God. In fact, the Teacher revisits this point latter.
There is a futility that is done on the earth: there are righteous people who get what the actions of the wicked deserve, and there are wicked people who get what the actions of the righteous deserve. I say that this too is futile. (8:14; HCSB) Understand the world operates this way and do not be dismayed.
Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others. (7:21-22; ESV)
We have done the same thing. Don’t get so upset when someone says something against you. The Teacher is not condoning the situation. He is simply reminding us that we have made the same mistake. Do not be so crest fallen when people say things. You have done the same.
I think we need to keep in mind is that we often get caught up in the moment. All of us have said thoughtless things. We say dumb things and often the intention is not malicious. We often put sinister motives on people who are doing nothing more than making foolish mistakes. The point: before we get in a tizzy about what someone has said and begin to react, think. We have done the exact same thing. We have said things in the heat of the moment. We have said things that we wish we could take back. We are not perfect and we are not going to say things perfectly, as much as we would like. Things do not come out like we think will come out.
When someone says something hurtful, let it go. Do not get offended. Most of the time those words were just an accident. Most of the time those words are simply thoughtless words, being caught up in the moment. Do not assume malicious intent. Realize that you and I have done the same thing and it was not done with malicious intent.
But we need to be sure that this does not excuse our thoughtless words. We are commanded to be careful and thoughtful about what we say.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37; ESV)
And I find more bitter than death the woman who is a trap, her heart a net, and her hands chains. The one who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner will be captured by her. (7:26; HCSB)
Many read these verses as we concluded chapter 7 believing that the Teacher is slandering women. Clearly, verse 26 reveals that we are talking about the seductress. Notice the similarity of these words to the wise words of the Proverbs and it will become clear that the seductress is in view.
My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a harlot is a deep pit, and a seductress is a narrow well. She also lies in wait as for a victim, and increases the unfaithful among men. (Proverbs 23:26-28; NKJV)
This is a warning against seduction and affairs. The Teacher tells us that affairs are traps and snares. The idea of an affair seems so wonderful. But the affair is not built upon reality but fantasy. Responsibilities are being ignored. The dishes don’t have to be washed. The kids do not have to be put to bed. It is not a real world, but pretend. This is why so many remarriages end in failure. The unhappy person finds another and leaves the original marriage. Now the responsibilities of life are placed upon a new person which becomes a second marriage. Guess what? All of those hardships and challenges did not leave. People jump from fantasy to fantasy not realizing that happiness cannot be found in the fantasy world.
If you want the good life, then listen to these wise words. Rather than taking the extra time to find another person, run around having fun with that other person, dating the other person, do those things with your current spouse. Find extra time to be with your spouse. Run around having fun with your spouse. Date your spouse. You say that you can’t because you do not have time and you have too many responsibilities. You are lying because if you have the time for an affair then you that time can be spent alone with your spouse. Escape the trap. Put the effort into your marriage. Go on dates together. Do things together. We must find the time.
Only see this: I have discovered that God made people upright, but they pursued many schemes.” (7:29; HCSB) This is a sad thing. We have been made to be able to do the right thing. However, most people choose not to. Few people choose to follow the wise path of the Lord.
These verses describe the relationship between a king and his subjects. We may want to pass by these instructions believing that they are not applicable to us. However the principles can be applied to two circumstances that are applicable to us.
The first circumstance is that of citizen to government. Submit the government and life will be simpler. Notice verse 5, “The one who keeps a command will not experience anything harmful, and a wise heart knows the right time and procedure.” This is also the teaching of the apostle Paul in the New Testament to obey the government.
1 Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. 2 So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do good and you will have its approval. 4 For government is God’s servant to you for good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. (Romans 13:1-4; HCSB)
The second circumstance is that of employer to employee. I think one statement is particularly applicable.
Do not be terrified; go from his presence, do not delay when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. (8:3; NRSV)
We have a new generation that does not want to work and do not want to do what they are told because the matter is unpleasant. Just do the work. Do not delay. When we are told to do something, we are not in the position to decide if it is a good idea. The boss will do whatever he wants. We just need to do what we are told, even if the task is unpleasant.
Hypocrisy of Death (8:10-13)
The Teacher concludes with some observations about the hypocrisy of death and the wicked. In verse 10, the Teacher describes a situation that we have seen at every funeral. I believe the NLT captures best the hypocrisy the Teacher is witnessing.
I have seen wicked people buried with honor. Yet they were the very ones who frequented the Temple and are now praised in the same city where they committed their crimes! (8:10; NLT)
I have never seen a funeral where the wicked where called out for their wicked deeds. Rather, only the good things are highlighted and the person is buried in honor, rather than the distain deserved. The Teacher describes a person who is so rebellious against God that he walks into the temple frequently. Though committing crimes, the people still praise him at his death. What a foolish situation!
The Teacher goes on to describe the fact that justice is often not swift against the wicked. After pointing out that the wicked will still receive an honorable burial, the Teacher goes on to say:
Because the sentence against a criminal act is not carried out quickly, therefore the heart of people is filled with the desire to commit crime. (8:11; HCSB) Understand that justice is not always carried out quickly. This is simply another fact of life. We cannot be disturbed or believe there is no God when justice is delayed. Unfortunately, delayed justice often causes others to be wicked because they believe that they will not be brought to justice. Though delayed, justice will come.
Although a sinner commits crime a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I also know that it will go well with God-fearing people, for they are reverent before Him. However, it will not go well with the wicked, and they will not lengthen their days like a shadow, for they are not reverent before God. (8:12-13; HCSB)
Even though the fact of life is that justice is not always swift and the wicked are praised, the Teacher reaches an important conclusion. All in all, things go well with God-fearing people. There is great wisdom in going along God’s path rather than our own. The reason is the point made earlier by the Teacher.
God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart. (5:19-20; HCSB)
Note the point that the righteous will not consider the days of his life because he is occupied with the joy of his heart. Knowing these facts of life will help us remain even-keeled during the good and bad times. We understand to not get too high during the good times and not too low during the bad days. We can enjoy life as it comes to us, fearing God, trusting in him to help us through any circumstance.